Ontario Supporting Education Sector, Students, and Municipalities During COVID-19 Outbreak
To assist the education sector, municipalities, and students during the COVID-19 emergency, Ontario has passed the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Support and Protection Act in the Ontario Legislative Assembly, amending the Education Act, Planning Act, Development Charges Act, Police Services Act and the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act.
The changes are as follows:
Amending the Education Act will allow school boards with an expiring education development charge (EDC) by-law to use their existing by-law for an additional six months after the end of the COVID-19 outbreak, so they can continue to charge fees on new construction. This change ensures school boards can retain a vital source of revenue that helps support new school projects. This amendment aligns with the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing's approach to development charges that are expiring during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Education Act is also being amended to provide a fair and consistent, provincewide approach to addressing school suspensions and expulsions. During the closure period and with the physical distancing requirements, it is not feasible for boards to complete investigations and hold expulsion hearings. To guarantee procedural fairness for students, especially where the principal's investigation may lead to a recommendation for an expulsion hearing, the amendment extends the timeline for principals and boards to carry out investigations and expulsion hearings for these students up to 20 school days after the school closure order ends, and when schools re-open. The amendment will help protect the safety and security of students and staff upon the reopening of schools.
Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act
Amending the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities Act will temporarily suspend student loan payments for OSAP borrowers and initiate a six-month interest-free moratorium on OSAP loans. Both measures will automatically apply to current OSAP loans, providing immediate relief to OSAP borrowers during this difficult time. Anyone who wishes to continue to make payments to their loan can still make one-time payments through their online account or online banking.
Amending the Planning Act will provide municipalities the time they need to focus on local public health priorities by making it possible to suspend certain planning decision timelines during a declared state of emergency. These changes will temporarily pause the need for municipalities and planning boards to make planning decisions within specified timelines without the risk of appeal. If municipalities choose to process planning applications, they may still do so by holding virtual/electronic public meetings and making decisions on planning matters during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Development Charges Act
Amending the Development Charges Act will ensure municipalities can continue to count on a vital source of revenue that helps pay for local growth-related infrastructure, such as roads, water and sewers as well as fire and police services. This change allows municipalities with an expiring development charge by-law to use their existing by-law during the current emergency and for six months following the end of the emergency declaration, so they can continue to charge fees on new construction.
Police Services Act
The Solicitor General can give municipalities an extension on the deadline to prepare and adopt a community safety and well-being plan. Municipalities have inquired about an extension in order to keep resources focussed on dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak. The amendments to the Police Services Act allow the Solicitor General to extend the deadline past January 1, 2021, which will help ensure municipalities are able to meet the legislative requirements and complete their community safety and well-being plans within new required timelines, which will be set at a later date.